Posts Tagged ‘suicide’
Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015
At WBI, Dr. Ruth, I and several of the staff have listened to long-winded tales of misery endured at the hands of workplace bullies for many years. It amazes us that as many people survive the process as they do. It’s a testament to human resilience.
Suicide is the abandonment of hope, of not seeing any future, of not perceiving alternatives. It happens. How often it is the choice of bullied workers is not known. The international pioneer of the movement, Heinz Leymann, wrote in the early 1990’s that about 10% of those bullied do take their lives. It was his educated guess.
Now comes an important study from our Norwegian friends at the Bergen Bullying Research Group led by Stale Einarsen. The principal author of the study published Sept. 17 in the American Journal of Public Health is Morten Birkeland Nielsen.
The subtitle of the article is “A 3-Wave Longitudinal Norwegian Study.” The key contribution made by the study is that it measured the same group of people during three different time periods. Its longitudinal approach clarifies the sequence of events. It was a test to determine which caused which — bullying at work or considering suicide (the academics and clinicians call it suicidal ideation). The one that preceded the other can be considered a cause of the second.
The study overcame a problem common to all cross-sectional studies (in which different groups of people are measured only once) — the question of correlation between factors. That is, if we ran a study here at the WBI website of bullied individuals and asked two questions — have you been bullied and have you considered suicide — and the two scores were highly correlated, we still could not say with certainty that bullying caused people to consider suicide. The Nielsen, et al., study solved that problem with its unique tracking of a single group over time — in 2005, 2007 and again in 2010. In wave 1, 2,539 (our of 4500 solicited from a national random sample) returned the researchers’ surveys. By 2010, the sample was still at 1,291 individuals — the final group with three measurements.
Tags: American Journal of Public Health, Einarsen, Gary Namie, mental health, negative impact, Nielsen, suicide, workplace bullying, workplace bullying insititute
Posted in Bullying & Health, Bullying-Related Research, Social/Mgmt/Epid Sciences, WBI Education | 3 Archived Comments | Post A Comment (
Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015
Workplace Bullying May Increase Risk of Suicidal Thoughts
By Lisa Rapaport, Reuters News Service, Sept. 17, 2015
(Reuters Health) – Workers who are victims of bullying on the job may become more likely to contemplate suicide than people who don’t experience a hostile office environment, a Norwegian study suggests.
Researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of roughly 1850 workers and followed them from 2005 to 2010. While less than five percent of participants reported thoughts of suicide during the study period, they were about twice as likely to do so after being victims of workplace bullying.
“Our study adds to the understanding of how bullying is related to thoughts about suicide by showing that the perception of being bullied at work actually is a precursor of suicidal ideation and not a consequence,” said lead study author Morten Birkeland Nielsen of the National Institute of Occupational Health and the University of Bergen.
At least 800,000 people worldwide take their own lives each year, making suicide a leading cause of death, Nielsen and colleagues write in the American Journal of Public Health.
Although psychiatric disorders are involved in the majority of suicide attempts, most people with mental health disorders don’t take their own lives, the researchers note.
Tags: abusive conduct, American Journal of Public Health, Einarsen, Gary Namie, Nielsen, suicide, University of Bergen, workplace bullying, Workplace Bullying Institute
Posted in Bullying-Related Research, Social/Mgmt/Epid Sciences, Tutorials About Bullying, WBI Education, WBI in the News | 1 Archived Comment | Post A Comment (
Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
WBI: Justice is about to be meted out in Madison Wisconsin three years after Philip Otto took his own life though he was close to retirement from the WI Department of Corrections. Otto had transferred from one facility to another. The climate at Oakhill represented by the actions of several coworkers and led by one supervisor was extremely toxic and unwelcoming. After his death, investigations were conducted leading to terminations of key coworkers. The supervisor was allowed to retire. One captain was reinstated. Other workers filed an appeal with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission asking for reinstatement. The hearing examiner Stuart Levitan heard testimony during 16 days in 2013. I reviewed the record and testified on behalf of the State concluding that the fired employees (Rachel Koester, Matthew Seiler and Justyn Witscheber) had demeaned, harassed, bullied and disgraced their peer, Mr. Otto, who had transferred recently to their facility — new to the place, but a veteran corrections officer. Progress in the case reported below is that the hearing examiner ruled Rachel Koester was justly terminated, according to a pending decision released on March 4. … Gary Namie
Examiner: Firing of Oakhill Guard Following Suicide Was Proper
By Dee J. Hall, Wisconsin State Journal, March 31, 2015
A hearing examiner has determined that the state Department of Corrections properly fired a guard who allegedly shunned and belittled a fellow officer who later committed suicide.
Philip Otto, 52, killed himself in March 2012 after what his wife, daughter and co-workers described as a pattern of bullying by fellow employees at Oakhill Correctional Institution.
The 20-year DOC veteran’s death came just months before he planned to retire with full benefits, his wife, Peggy Otto, told the State Journal in 2012.
In the proposed decision dated March 4, Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission examiner Stuart Levitan found the firing of correctional officer Rachel Koester was justified. He cited an internal investigation launched after Otto’s death in which dozens of Oakhill staffers were interviewed.
Tags: bullying, coworkers, Oakhill, Philip Otto, Rachel Koester, suicide, Wisconsin Dept of Corrections
Posted in Rulings by Courts, Target Tale, WBI Education | 1 Archived Comment | Post A Comment (
Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
It may surprise those of you who have never read a Russell Brand essay on the wrongness of austerity or the ills of contemporary society to realize the comedic man has depth and insight. And so I expected his tribute to Robin Williams to be equally brilliant. Here is the full essay.
I chose the excerpt below to capture Brand’s point about our very human fragility that gets bulldozed by our “man up” compassionless society.
What platitudes then can we fling along with the listless, insufficient wreaths at the stillness that was once so animated and wired, the silence where the laughter was? That fame and accolades are no defence against mental illness and addiction? That we live in a world that has become so negligent of human values that our brightest lights are extinguishing themselves? That we must be more vigilant, more aware, more grateful, more mindful? That we can’t tarnish this tiny slice of awareness that we share on this sphere amidst the infinite blackness with conflict and hate?
That we must reach inward and outward to the light that is inside all of us? That all around us people are suffering behind masks less interesting than the one Robin Williams wore? Do you have time to tune in to Fox News, to cement your angry views to calcify the certain misery?
What I might do is watch Mrs Doubtfire. Or Dead Poets Society or Good Will Hunting and I might be nice to people, mindful today how fragile we all are, how delicate we are, even when fizzing with divine madness that seems like it will never expire.
Thursday, March 13th, 2014
Kelly Greenberg has been coach of the women’s basketball team at Boston University for 10 years, and at the University of Pennsylvania and Holy Cross for a total of 12 years before that. Her style has been described as “difficult,” and bullying by the Boston Globe.
This season, four scholarship players walked away from the team, tired of the emotional abuse Greenberg directed at them. Without scholarships that BU might take back, staying in school there is an expensive proposition. From the Globe article, here are some statements by the women players.
“I arrived feeling very confident and motivated. Then I felt bullied, threatened, and emotionally abused by the coach. By the time I left, she had demolished me as a person. She didn’t treat us like human beings at all” … Dana Theobald
“I discovered that when you play for Coach Greenberg, you don’t play the game you love. You play her game, an emotional game that is not about basketball.” … Melissa Gallo
And from the student who was taken to hospital when suicide was contemplated
“Basketball is a contact sport. We have all played for tough coaches. But I went to BU because I believed [Greenberg] was a great coach, and I was shocked by how it turned out. It was very scary. I was blaming everything on myself because of the way I had been treated. I knew deep inside that it wasn’t me, but I was too afraid to say it was [Greenberg] because she didn’t make me feel supported. Giving up a $60,000-a-year scholarship is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I hate that I’m not in school, but it had to be done. My spirit was broken.” … Dionna Joynes
These comments are completely consistent with the experiences of bullied targets. The bullying was not about the sport of basketball (the equivalent of work-related tasks) but about Greenberg’s volatile emotionality. Finally, illustrating the perfect fit with the phenomenon of bullying, the targets lost their jobs (the sport) they loved because they were involuntarily emotionally abused.
It seems coach Greenberg had trouble with players who were injured. She assaulted them as “selfish” after suffering a concussion or ankle injury.
When two players quit previously and the university conducted its “investigation,” Greenberg was made aware that she is difficult and that she had made regrettable mistakes.
Let’s see if BU renews Greenberg’s contract. Read the full story in the Globe.
Tags: Boston University, coach bullying, Dionna Joynes, emotional abuse, Kelly Greenberg, sports bullying, suicide, woman-on-woman, workplace bullying
Posted in Media About Bullying, Print: News, Blogs, Magazines, Tutorials About Bullying, WBI Education | 1 Archived Comment | Post A Comment (
Wednesday, September 11th, 2013
Several factors typically merge that exacerbate the misery that convinces individuals who choose to die by suicide to act. Research has found that in workplaces where bullying operates simultaneously with several other negative conditions, it is the bullying that has the greatest deleterious effect on people — bullied targets and witnesses. Given that many people’s identities are centered around work and what one does for compensation, work can dominate home life factors.
Finally, to connect the dots, misery from work travels home readily. Bullying at work inevitably strains domestic relationships. Thus, for targets exposed to unremitting stress at work from bullying, a very personalized form of abuse, eventually it feels like the world is closing in on them. Taking one’s life suddenly becomes an option when no alternatives are visible.
Such a case was reported in the Bassett Unified School District in southern California. Jennifer Lenihan was a Bassett High art teacher, known by students for personally buying class supplies, creativity and loving the art museum. According to press reports quoting her stepfather, Lenihan was driven to suicide by the school principal, Robert Reyes and [name redacted at requested of alleged offender]. There were reports of the two administrators shaming Lenihan in front of teachers and students. And she was assigned a class with which she was unfamiliar (a classic tactic used to destabilize good veteran teachers) and told to teach the class or lose another class she wanted to teach.
She took stress leave, receiving half her salary for a short time. Her claims for disability insurance and workers’ compensation were both denied. She took out a personal loan to live. The district gave her two options: resign or apply for a waiting list for rehire. She was at the end of her rope. Her mother had given her rent money. The next day, July 1, she took her life.
Teachers union officers said the treatment Lenihan received is common at the district. Further, Reyes and [the other alleged offender] have a record of bullying teachers. The new district superintendent said there was no “written form” record of complaints from Lenihan. He said the district has no “morale” problem.
Tags: assistant principal, Bassett Teachers Association, Bassett Unified School District, disability, educator, Jennifer Lenihan, principal, Robert Reyes, suicide, teacher, workers' compensation, workplace bullying
Posted in Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Unions | No Archived Comments | Post A Comment (
Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
I’ve worked for a large Big Ten University for 11 years. I met my husband here, we got married, we were a ‘dream team’ together. We worked in separate but related fields and both were at the top of our field.
Then, our college hired a new Dean. This Dean first dismantled my husband’s research. Then he dismantled my job. But instead of just ending my position because of lack of funding, he wrote inaccurate and scathing letters about my performance and personal relationships with colleagues that were simply full of lies.
Overwhelmed with our work issues, my husband and I separated. As soon as we were separated the bullying that targeted me intensified.
I was eventually fired for ‘not getting enough done’ the year my mother died, and my son ended up in the hospital. Because my son is covered by FMLA, I filled a claim of violation with the state and Federal FMLA. At this time, the state has found probable violations and the DOL has found the University in violation.
But, during this time my husband killed himself. The atmosphere in the University is so toxic, that when I called to talk to him that morning, I was told he hadn’t shown up for class (which was unusual) my coworker admitted some concern, but not much at the time. I called back and talked to a different coworker who laughed at me when I asked if anyone knew about my husband’s whereabouts. She laughed and said, “no not about Bill”…laugh laugh laugh. I eventually called the sheriff’s department, and eventually received the terrible news.
The first thing our Dean did was to call into HR to tell them that he knew better than the sheriff’s department and that we weren’t married, we weren’t separated, but we were divorced. That was not true, and both the Sheriff’s representative and the campus police had told the Dean that my husband and I were separated but married. This messed up our benefits for months. I had to prove that we were married.
The college then didn’t invite me to a program at which they honored my husband. I found out about it, but the college told me it wasn’t for me or my son to attend.
At this time the DOL has told the University to give me my job back. But the University is choosing to go into non-compliance. It breaks my heart to think about how much my son has lost because of workplace bullying. And now, because the University is choosing to go into non-compliance, we will have to move just months after his dad passed away. He will now be losing his friends and the only home he’s ever known.
Friday, March 22nd, 2013
Guest blog by Linda Woods
When I hear the phrase committed suicide I cringe at those words. It always sounds to me like someone has committed a crime. Not so many years ago in Canada it was a criminal offence to take your own life. In some states in the U.S. it is still a crime. I have met parents who have been shattered by the death of their child by suicide and to add insult to injury their dead child was charged with a criminal offence after their death.
Our 13-year-old son Greg died by suicide on January 25, 1990, so I have had a lot of time to come to terms with and educate myself around the subject of suicide. When a person has depression or a mental illness and it is not treated they sometimes go on to died by suicide. They were in horrific indescribable pain and suffered beyond our comprehension and now we want to persecute them further by suggesting that they are committing a crime. Suicide is not about dying; it is about ending the pain.
Friday, January 4th, 2013
“12-9” is the New York City subway transit code for a passenger under a train. In 2012 55 people died by subway impact. When the death is a deliberate suicide, there are at least two victims — the person committing suicide wishing to die and the train operator dragged into the plan involuntarily. For operators, they are at work on the job.
Equally horrific is the recent spate of deliberate murders committed by crazed individuals who push others onto the tracks in front of a subway train that cannot stop in time to prevent death or injury.
The sensitive New York Times report about the plight of train operators caught my attention.
Historians of the workplace bullying movement recognize the phenomenon that first interested Heinz Leymann, the international founder. The suicides caused the trauma from work that led to his work on mobbing. The best source of information about Leymann is written and maintained by Prof. Ken Westhues at the University of Waterloo.
Leymann researched mobbing in Sweden. Follow the links at the above website (Essential Article to read one of Leymann’s earliest English-language articles.) Mobbing always has several perpetrators and a single victim. Some argue that workplace bullying is different. At WBI we believe they are the same thing. In bullying, accomplices line up to aid and abet the single instigator leading to a “ganging up” as in mobbing.
Monday, December 3rd, 2012
If exposed long enough to severe workplace bullying, two outcomes become likely. First, the target’s health is jeopardized. Second, unremitting stress can cause loss of the ability to discern and make choices to get oneself to safety due to physiological changes in the brain. The second outcome can lead to suicide. One WBI 2012 study found that 29% of bullied targets considered suicide; 16% actually had a plan to execute.
Annette Prada worked 23 years for a New Mexico state agency, the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) in the Corporations bureau. Her daughter told The New Mexican reporter Staci Matlock that her mother had been dealing with “bullying and stress there for years.” Andre Prada claimed the abuse was verbal, in e-mails and in the form of demotions.
Annette’s daughter repeated the phrase we too often hear here at WBI, that her mother was “only two years away from retirement. She tried to stay strong.” The family confirmed that Annette also had health problems.
Annette disappeared on Thursday Nov. 29. Police told her family that she was found dead.
Tags: Annette Prada, Johnny Montoya, Mercie Roybal, NM Public Regulations Commission, Patrick Lyons, Staci Matlock, Stacy Marie Starr-Garcia, suicide, workplace bullying
Posted in Media About Bullying, Print: News, Blogs, Magazines, WBI Education, WBI Surveys & Studies | 6 Archived Comments | Post A Comment (